What is body knowledge and what difficulties do people with Autism and intellectual disability have in developing this skill?

The aim of the ARBIT project is to offer tools and procedures to improve basic and essential skills for people with autism and intellectual disabilities through augmented reality technology.

One of these skills is the body knowledge, we explain a bit more what it consists of and which difficulties people with autism and intellectual developmental disability have in the development of this ability.

What is it?

Body knowledge has many faces.

It refers to the immediate and continuous knowledge that a person has about his/her own body in static state or in movement, in regard to its different parts and the space and objects that are around him/her.

It refers also to the awareness of self as a social and mental entity and to the feelings that this awareness offers

When does it develop?

Since birth, infants develop their body perception through interaction with persons (for example, through caresses) and objects. At the ecological level, body knowledge appears very early, around 4 months in typical infants, and gives rise to the experience of effective agency.

At the symbolic level, Self-recognition is the capacity to recognize a representation of oneself as me. Typical development of self-recognition was first addressed, using the recognition of one's image in the mirror via marking the child’s face with a spot of rouge. Typically developing children pass this task at approximately 18 months of age.

Later, around 3 years, children are able to recognize a self-representation which does not look like themselves (avatar).

Around 5, they will be able to form a mental representation of themselves as a social person

What are the implications of this skill for a person's development?

A good body knowledge will contribute to motor coordination, spatial cognition, body language and emotional expression.

What difficulties do people with autism and intellectual disability have in developing this skill?

Many individuals with ASD and intellectual disability have difficulties developing a good knowledge about their body. Consequently, they may experience deficits both at motor level (for example, slowness, awkwardness, or no coordination) and at perceptive level (for example, lack of hand-eye coordination, spatial organisation and time-space structure) that limits them to interact and function easily in the environment that surrounds them.